Richard Bernstein of The New York Times has an interesting article on the perception of America versus the reality of European life. Europe has embraced a cartoonish view of American life – a view that leads Europe to embrace Michael Moore and caused one European writer to make the laughable statement that America has no welfare system. As Jean-François Ravel notes in his study of anti-Americanism, Europe has a desperate desire to prove its own superiority to America, and the only way that can be done is by creating a straw-man version of America that the Europeans can use to justify their own faltering society. Despite all the claims of the superiority of the European welfare state, the numbers do not lie. The Euro-zone’s average unemployment is 9.0% – 4.4% higher than the average rate in the US. On a state-by-state comparison, the EU would barely be competitive against the poorest American states. Only Luxembourg has a higher per-capita GDP than the lowest American state.
Despite claims of how superior the European model of health care is, the facts betray that comparison. In the UK, their National Health Service provides few chances for patients to have input into their own care, causes key doctors to work untenable hours to keep up, has caused people to wait for months for dental care (no jokes about British dentistry, please), and causes many to wait for lifesaving procedures – assuming they don’t die before they can get medical help. For anything more than minor medical problems the European system of health care simply does not work – and even that is shaking due to population growth and rising costs.
Economically and socially Europe is in trouble – anti-Americanism provides a way for politicians to focus that anger away from themselves and towards someone else. By arguing that Americans are all fat and ignorant it allows European leaders to dodge the issue of why Europe is facing low growth and high unemployment. Unfortunately for European leaders, even that is rapidly becoming insufficient to stop the anger against the established European intelligentsia that run the EU.
Europe has lost the thumos that creates a dynamic society. As Ravel, Orianna Fallaci, and others noted, Europe has become a curious blend of anti-Americanism, anti-Semtism, and cultural defeatism. This is not a sustainable condition for European society – eventually Europe faces the choice of reform or collapse. With increasing immigration of unassimilated and angry Muslims, the fears of a EUrabia are not without merit. As Bernstein notes:
What may be most deeply at issue is Europe’s loss of confidence in its ability to forge a separate way, in the face of the American juggernaut. After all, if the United States, more boldly capitalist, less oriented toward social welfare, is portrayed as a shining light, what room is left for the European left? And then there is the fear among educated people that the brash American materialism will sweep European cultivation into a vast sea of sameness. It’s a realistic fear, and it would be a loss to both Europe and America if it did happen.
That “brash American materialism” is the very reason why America is a shining light and Europe is a fading ember. Europe is trying to embrace the values of “diversity” (a value that is often rooted in a form of cultural nihilism) and “compassion” (or the same government welfare that saps the very work ethic that leads to true prosperity) – while still trying to enjoy the benefits that only a strong and dynamic society can provide. Sooner or later they will face the reality that you can’t have it both ways. Socialist means can never meet socialist ends. Welfare increases poverty by diminishing the work ethic needed to success. A strong economy can’t be created with the ossified labor market that is the result of the European “social safety net”. Quality health care cannot be doled out like the porridge in a 19th century workhouse – the “gift” of the state to the wards of the state. The attitudes of a government that acts as sole provider are antithetical to a government that is accountable to the people. When one is beholden to the state, one can never be truly free.
Europe lives in a dream world, a dream that some are beginning to wake up from. What will happen when Europe finally faces the consequences of its own fantasy are unknown – but sooner or later the dream will end. One can only hope Europe wakes up before the nightmare begins.